25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Symphony No. 2

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In this age when there are literally dozens of Beethoven symphony recordings from which to choose, it grows ever harder for any conductor, of whatever renown, to offer any new revelations in these colossal works. And the ultra-conservative Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – one of Germany's oldest orchestras, dating to 1743 – is an unlikely bastion of radical thinking. Yet perhaps it is that very weight of history that has spurred conductor Riccardo Chailly to record a cycle that stands out from the pack.

These recordings of the Symphonies No. 1 and No. 2 were made in 2007 and 2009, respectively, with the Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus recorded in 2009. They're the latest in a Beethoven tradition that goes back to the composer’s own lifetime, when in 1825 the Leipzig Gewandhaus gave the first-ever performance of the entire symphony cycle. To this day, the Ninth Symphony continues to mark the end of every season at the Gewandhaus. In short, these players have seen it all.

Enter Chailly, a Milan-born maestro who became Leipzig’s chief conductor in 2005. He's known for modernizing familiar repertoire and here he's intent on bringing a new sense of urgency and detail to Beethoven. He sticks faithfully to the composer's implausibly fast metronome markings and the musicians respond with taut, incisive playing. At times the orchestra evokes a period-instrument ensemble, with transparent textures and spare use of vibrato – but with the richer, more polished sound which many listeners still prefer.

Chailly's complete cycle of the Beethoven recordings was previously a WQXR Album of the Week.

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor
Decca
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

What I meant to include with my comments on conductors performing Beethoven is that AFTER his own era Beethoven's successors composers Franz Liszt, Mahler and Wagner were reputedly ardent disciples who conducted Beethoven's oeuvre with the appropriate fervor and comprehension.

Nov. 27 2012 12:42 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

RICCARDO CHAILLY, LIKE PIERRE BOULEZ AND ALAN GILBERT ALL CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH NEW PERCEPTIONS ON REP SCHEDULING AND POINTS OF VIEW REFLECTING THE COMPOSER'S ORIGINQL INTENTIONS. Where it is possible performances on the composer's original designated instruments by performers whose passion for the composer's original intentions is conceded, gives us the best insight of the music. GREAT recorded performances of Beethoven's symphonies are so numerous and include performances by maestri Bruno Walter, Felix Weingarten, Arturo Toscanini, Sir Thomas Beecham, Artur Bodansky, George Szell, Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti, Eugene Ormandy. Others whose performances of Beethoven I have heard in performance or on the radio or TV, but not on recordings. are/were Karl Muck, Wilhelm Mengelberg, Franz Liszt, , Serge Koussevitsky, Clemens Krauss, Erich and Carlos Kleiber, Erich Leinsdorf, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Fritz Busch, Pierre Boulez, Pierre Monteau, Christian Thielemann, Laszlo Halasz, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Herbert von Karajan. Reviews of Gustav Mahler as being an exttraordinary conductor of Beethoven reveal his total musicianship, although his talent as a major composer is all that most people know of. Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally ,and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, www.WagnerOpera.com, , www.ShakespeareOpera.com, and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com. It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Among the greatest singers famous for their Beethoven performances in opera and concert my voice teachers, all legends of the Met Opera, were Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer.

Nov. 27 2012 10:43 AM

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.

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